When the most of us think of the phrase “the justice of God” it tends to carry negative connotations. Perhaps some of us think of fire and brimstone preachers whose favorite thing in the world to talk about seems to be hell and almost get some sort of twisted pleasure in thinking that some people are going there and they are not. Others may be so aware of their sin that “the justice of God” strikes a note of fear within.
Of course it is not a bad thing to have a healthy fear of God; it is, after all, a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But I don’t think the idea of God’s justice is simply ‘the negative side’ of God’s grace. There is something that is beautiful about God’s justice, something that should bring joy to all those who are called children of God.
One Wednesday I was at my church’s evening prayer meeting. Before the actual prayer begins we usually mingle, sing some songs, read some scripture, and then ask the children what they want us adults to pray for. Our elder read from proverbs and then asked the children, “What does the Bible mean when it speaks of God’s justice?” A couple children gave some really good answers but one in particular suggested something that really stirred my heart. He answered, “The justice of God means that God always does what is right.”
Wherever we look, whether it is our own personal lives or the evening news, injustice is rampant. People are taken advantage of, bullied, murdered and the worst part of all is that people are getting away with it. We instinctively know, “that’s not right.” We often know what is right but no one seems to do it, not even ourselves. But God is the one being who always does what is right. R.C. Sproul says, “Righteousness means doing what is right. Therefore, God’s justice has to do with His internal righteousness, His character, which defines everything he does. God never acts according to injustice. He never violates any of the standards or canons of righteousness. A simple definition of God’s justice is ‘His eternal, immutable commitment always to do what is right.’” (Sproul, R.C. The Truth of the Cross, Reformation Trust, 19).
This begs the question, “What happens to me if God always does what is right?” When I am what’s wrong with the world how will God deal with me. When I sin against God daily how can I stand? The fact of the matter is that we are evil. Even when God made a special people in response to sin (i.e. the nation of Israel) they sinned against God and were sent into exile. Like Israel being cast into exile we have all been exiled to sin and death. We are all guilty.
If God always does what is right then we are in deep trouble. But the glory of Christ’s atonement is that Christ went into exile for us. He set his face toward Jerusalem, the place where he would be hung on a cruel Roman cross, to bear God’s wrath so we wouldn’t have to. Now we can set our face toward the promised land, not Jerusalem, where God’ justice would be fully revealed and all things will be put right.